Career Profile: Erin Kraal
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania is a public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate.
Click on a topic to read Erin Kraal's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Balancing work and life * Advice
Briefly describe your educational background and career path.
Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.
What do you like best about your work?
What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?
What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?
- Publication and grant record as a graduate student and post-doc.
- Teaching experience beyond TA'ing as a graduate student including being a single course instructor for a class I designed and the instructor for the department's TA'ing course on Teaching Methods for graduate students.
- Spending a lot of time on my application materials and jobs talks.
- Having varied graduate experience (in lab, field, modeling) across several fields (geomorphology, sedimentology, planetary science) made it possible for me to apply to a variety of position and be able to teach a variety of courses in a smaller program.
Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in these workshops are interested in balancing a family and career, in dual career couple issues, and in how other personal choices affect the search for a fulfilling career. Please share information about your situation, your ideas and experiences.
For overall work-life balance issues, it is important to have priority list for your job (in each area of research, teaching, and service) and in your personal life (time with family/friends, hobbies, exercises, etc). Say YES to things that are inline with your top priorities and say NO to things that distract you from your priorities. This allows you to focus and make progress on your most important tasks for your career and to devote time to your personal life. Your priorities will be unique and you do not have to make the same decisions as anyone else. Be confident in your priorities - You must build a sustainable framework for your whole life.
What advice do you have for graduate students or post-docs preparing for academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?
- If you are interested in a position with a lot of teaching, gain some experiences that distinguish you from the 'TA'ed only.' Opportunities include things like being able to teach/design your own course for a semester (but again see warning above about staying focused on your research over the long term!), attending workshops (like this one and other at GSA/AGU about undergraduate research programs), take a teaching pedagogy course if it is offered (even if it isn't in your specific field), and/or seek out an opportunity to mentor an undergraduate student as a part of your research (don't just have a 'field assistant' – have them draft their own mini-project).
- Make sure that you postdoc – whatever type of institution your are headed to – this is an extremely valuable investment in your future research.
The most important thing I learned during my 5 years on the job market, 4 negotiation rounds, and 2 different faculty positions is that this is a process, not an end game. Initially it felt like I was making a life-long decision with every single interview, that my whole career hung in the balance and I put a lot of stress on myself to make the 'perfect' decision. Now I think of it as making the best decision that you can at the time and working my way toward achieving my goals. In graduate school, a faculty position seemed like the end (a rewarding one, but an end none the less). Now I see it is just another step on the journey.